Veterans Aid

The Tweed Challenge

The Tweed Challenge is a bid by two inexperienced kayakers to navigate 97 miles of the famous Scottish river to raise funds for Veterans Aid.

Its aim is to help VA  prevent ex-servicemen and women in crisis from becoming street homeless – and providing an immediate way out for those who are. 

 

*To make donations to The Tweed Challenge in aid of Veterans Aid please go to Nick and Jamie’s JUST GIVING page and click HERE.

The Tweed Challenge updates

11.06.18 – Jamie and Nick off to a fantastic start! Despite 10-knot headwinds they have made strong progress so far. Huge support coming in and many are following their journey.

“Easterly wind has been brutal, “ said Jamie, “lightening and other chaos meant we had to leave the water as someone gave us carbon fiber paddles…”

Jamie and Nick are certainly encountering several unforeseen obstacles and battling with the elements as they paddle fiercely down the Tweed. However, thanks to the enormous support they have received, their vigor and determination does not dwindle.

Jamie continued, “A member of the public ran down the river bank and had heard of Veterans Aid and The Tweed Challenge. Gave us a cash donation. Nick and I were really touched. Today as we paddled through an Anglers cast he decided to sponsor us as he had read the local paper on the challenge.”

Despite needing three mid-river exits yesterday due to cold water temperatures they are working hard to be ahead of their target, having arrived to Melrose a day earlier than expected. They will enjoy a brief respite from the rapids at the beautiful Dryburgh Abbey Hotel where the staff have gone above and beyond in offering hospitality to our two kayakers.

We are speechless at the generosity in donations to their Just Giving page which currently stands at a whopping £41,686. Keep going Jamie and Nick, we are all rallying behind you!

 

24.03.18 – Nick and Jamie start paddling in earnest at Salisbury Canoe Club, where the reality of what they have undertaken begins to hit home.

“The training is a lot tougher than I first thought,” said Jamie, “I was paddling and out of breath – and we nearly went in yesterday!”

Lazy Sundays are a thing of the past for this pair who are discovering new skills at every session. “There is a footbridge, 30” inches above the water where we were training: Nick and I did a water limbo and then Nick, in saving himself, put me back under it again for a second time as he decided we should go down backwards . . . ”

But the pair are inspired by the encouragement they have had from friends and supporters who have already started nudging them towards their £30k target.

CEO of Veterans Aid Dr Hugh Milroy said, “What Nick and Jamie are doing is awesome; not just asking for money, but putting themselves through a punishing physical challenge to earn it. It’s a measure of how much they believe in our work, and on behalf of all at Veterans Aid, I want to thank them.”

 

How it all began . . 

A meeting on the touchline of a rugby match, while cheering on their sons five years ago, led to an unexpected outcome for a 49-year-old Scottish businessman and a 46-year-old army officer.

Over a recent lunch, investment manager Jamie M and Lieutenant Colonel Nick Woolgar hatched a plan that would transform them from spectator status to centre stage of an ambitious personal challenge, to raise funds for homeless veterans.

Career soldier Nick was commissioned into the 1721st Lancers (whose motto was ‘Death or Glory’) in 1991. Over 27 years he served on many operations but identifies leading an infantry platoon on peacekeeping operations in Bosnia in 1994, commanding a Challenger tank squadron on operations in 2004 and leading a capacity building team in Somalia last year as personal highpoints. Today he still has a taste for adventure and admits to “floating the idea of a challenge for two guys rapidly approaching 50” to raise funds for a worthwhile cause. Jamie responded by conceiving The Tweed Challenge.

The two men shared a deep unease about the plight of the many rough sleepers they had seen and a particular concern about the fact that some were ex-servicemen. “It upset us both,” explained Jamie.

“Last year I walked the streets of London with colleagues from my office distributing support packages to homeless people. Afterwards I felt motivated to do something more. Nick and I wanted to do something innovative and also physically challenge ourselves – but more importantly something that would motivate our friends and contacts to support our effort and make a positive impact on homelessness.”

For Nick as an army officer the issue was more personal, “I want to make a difference for those ex-servicemen who, for whatever reason, have fallen on hard times and need a helping hand. They have kept us safe in our beds.  We want to do the same for them.”

The charity they decided to support, through their fundraising challenge, was Veterans Aid.

“This was a big decision for us,” explained Jamie.  “Prior to approaching VA, we studied the charity and its management team. We concluded that they were a very high-quality group of professionals, doing something special in a crowded charity environment. They have disciplined processes; tremendous transparency and they really care about helping veterans out of difficult situations. They do a lot more than ensuring ‘no first night out’ and what they have achieved in recent years is truly impressive.”

The ‘challenge’ the men set themselves was no easy one! Lack of experience notwithstanding, they have decided to kayak 97 miles along the temperamental River Tweed, a deceptively calm looking waterway that can turn treacherous and has caught many people by surprise.

Already in training, their journey will take place between 8 – 15 June 2018, starting at the source of the River Tweed at Tweed’s Well high in the hills and ending at its mouth at the North Sea coastal town of Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Jamie said, “My concern is river conditions. The Tweed can be brutal and easily rise 10 feet or more in 24 hours after heavy rain. It can become dangerous after rising just two feet.

“We will paddle hard when it’s safe and try to get out of the way of floating trees and debris on any big flood water. During the dates of last year’s Tweed Challenge the river had a big flood so we need to hope for decent conditions.”

Only slightly daunted by lack of experience Jamie is slowly getting to grips with the difference between a canoe and a kayak, plus the need to significantly improve his strength and lose 15lbs in weight.

Undeterred by his children’s view that he is ‘too fat to do it”, Jamie is already well into his preparation regime. The pair started training in February on the Hampshire stretch of the River Avon near Salisbury. “It’s tiny compared to The Tweed,” said Jamie, “but a great place to learn how to paddle for the first time.”

Certainly, the men need to be fit. “If conditions are kind we should finish the trip in seven days or less,” he predicts. “By the time we start the Tweed Challenge we will have completed a series of three-hour kayak training sessions, covering around three miles a session. We’re planning to be on the Tweed river about eight hours a day, so you can see that a lot of training needs to be done!”

Nick too owns up to not being as fit as he would like but adds, “Our training programme will beat us into shape before June. It’s a mixture of on and off the water training – ‘off the water’ training is about building strength and endurance; ‘on the water’ is about improving skill and efficiency.  In the Army we say, ‘train hard, fight easy’ and that’s exactly what we intend to do!”

On the issue of mishaps Nick is unequivocal, “I am super confident. Failure is not an option. There are ex-serviceman out there who are relying on us. As usual, my family think I’m mad – but no-one can knock raising money for such a worthy cause.”

CEO of Veterans Aid, Wing Commander Dr Hugh Milroy, said, “When Jamie first contacted me with this proposal I was stunned; these are men with serious commitments and responsible jobs; they could have simply made a donation. Their determination to challenge themselves to raise funds for us is impressive, but it’s also an indication of how much they share our passion for ensuring that no ex-serviceman or woman should spend even a single night sleeping on the streets. We are delighted to have them on board and hope they get the support that they deserve.”

*To make donations to The Tweed Challenge in aid of Veterans Aid please go to Nick and Jamie’s JUST GIVING page and click HERE.

 

 

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